A hernia occurs when an internal part of the body, such as an organ or fatty tissue, protrudes through a weakness in a muscle or surrounding tissue wall. There are different types of hernias, and they usually affect the abdominal or chest area.
A hernia often causes few to no symptoms, apart from a noticeable swelling or lump – which may disappear when lying down, or it can be pushed back in. Coughing, straining, laughing, or physical activity may make the hernia reappear or become more noticeable.
If a hernia causes sudden or severe pain, vomiting, gas, or difficulty passing stool, or if it feels tender or firm, seek immediate medical care. It may indicate a complication such as an obstructed intestine or a strangulated hernia, which causes blood supply to be cut off and requires prompt medical treatment.
Common Types of Hernias
There are several very common types of hernias, including the following:
An inguinal hernia is the most common form of hernia, and it is more common in men than in women. It occurs when fatty tissue or part of the intestine pokes through into the groin area.
This type of hernia is often associated with aging and with repeated strain on the abdominal and groin areas. Weakened muscles may have been caused by physical exertion, obesity, frequent coughing or straining (from constipation or heavy lifting), or pregnancy.
A femoral hernia also occurs when fatty tissue or part of the intestine protrudes into the groin area. It is much less common than an inguinal hernia, and it affects more women than men.
This is very similar to an inguinal hernia, and the difference would only be determined by a medical professional.
A hiatal hernia occurs when part of the stomach pushes up into the chest cavity through an opening or weakness in the diaphragm (the thin layer of muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen). A hiatal hernia may not have obvious symptoms, and there are no noticeable bulges outside the body. However, it may sometimes cause heartburn, indigestion, difficulty swallowing, frequent regurgitation, and chest pain.
An umbilical hernia occurs when fatty tissue or part of the intestines protrudes through your abdomen, near the navel (belly button). Common causes of this include repeated straining in the abdominal area, being overweight, having an ongoing heavy cough, or after giving birth.
Treatment for a Hernia
A doctor can usually identify a hernia fairly easily through a physical examination. Imaging tests, such as ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI, may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis or to assess the extent of it.
Once the diagnosis has been determined, treatment can be considered. For a small hernia that isn’t causing bothersome symptoms, the doctor may recommend only watchful waiting. Many of these types of hernias never need to be treated medically, but it is good for your doctor to be aware of it.
If you are experiencing minor symptoms, your doctor may recommend that you wear a supportive truss. This can support the area without the need for surgery.
For growing/enlarging or painful hernias, surgery is usually necessary to relieve the discomfort and to prevent serious complications. There are two main types of hernia surgery: open hernia repair and laparoscopic repair.
Open hernia repair may require local or general anesthesia, depending on the location and severity of the hernia. This surgery involves your doctor surgically pushing the protruding tissue back into its proper location (usually the abdomen). The weakened area is repaired with stitches and is often reinforced with a synthetic mesh – this is called a hernioplasty. The incision is closed with stitches, staples, or surgical glue.
Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that requires general anesthesia. The surgeon operates through multiple small incisions, and gas may be used to inflate the abdomen to make internal organs easier to see. A laparoscope (miniature tool with fiber-optic camera functionality at the end) and other tiny instruments are used to repair the hernia, often using synthetic mesh.
Laparoscopic repair is associated with less pain, less scarring, and a quicker recovery, but it can be a more involved procedure than open hernia repair. You and your doctor will discuss which option is right for you.
What Is Recovery Like After a Hernia Operation?
A full recovery from hernia surgery can take several weeks, and strenuous activities should be avoided for 4-6 weeks to allow the hernia to heal completely. You can gradually return to normal activities as the pain eases, which usually takes about 1-2 weeks after surgery.
Comprehensive Health Services in Sarasota and Manatee Counties
If you have a suspected hernia, don’t delay – seek a medical evaluation at Intercoastal Medical Group. Intercoastal is a professional medical association comprising more than 100 highly credentialed physicians who are committed to providing the highest level of healthcare. We encompass many medical specialties to offer you superior healthcare for virtually every medical need.
If you would like to find out more about our comprehensive health and wellness services, or to schedule an appointment with one of our primary care providers, contact us today at our location near you in the Sarasota and Bradenton area. You may also fill out our convenient appointment request form online now. We look forward to being your medical partner!